Bankrupt AVP beach volleyball tour to resume tour in September

Publish date:

The AVP is coming back with two events in September that the pro beach volleyball tour's new owner hopes will capitalize on strong American performances in the Olympics.

Donald Sun, who bought the remnants of the AVP this spring, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the tour will resume in Cincinnati on Labor Day Weekend - less than a month after the London Games and more than two years after the circuit declared bankruptcy. A second event is scheduled for Santa Barbara, Calif., on Sept. 15-16.

"I feel compelled to make a statement; make a splash," Sun said, conceding that he is still arranging sponsorships that would cover the 2012 events' combined $400,000 in purses. "Of course, we're in the process. But it's an investment for the future, starting now. Instead of waiting for everything to be lined up, let's just put our best foot forward and show that we're here."

The AVP is planning a more complete circuit in 2013.

"We could have waited until next year to do everything, but we really wanted to establish ourselves for 2012," Sun said. "We wanted to get points on the board and make sure people don't forget about us."

Formed in 1983, the AVP was the best-established beach volleyball tour in the United States before it went bankrupt in August 2010. It emerged from bankruptcy later that year and held one event in 2011.

Sun bought the tour this spring with the goal of re-establishing it as the primary domestic outlet for American beach stars like Olympic gold medal winners Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, and Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser. But it returns to a more crowded market that also features the domestic NVL and Jose Cuervo Series along with the Swatch World Tour that draws the top players during the two-year Olympic qualification cycle.

Future AVP seasons will be organized around four majors that Sun said will have distinct qualities - like the grass courts of Wimbledon following the clay courts of the French Open. They are:

-The AVP Classic, which Sun hopes would return to some of the sport's original rules like sideout scoring and a bigger court.

-The Open, where all teams would be eligible to qualify.

-The AVP Players Tournament would allow the players to decide on the formatting.

-The AVP Championships will bring the best teams from the season together for a tour championship.

"What we're trying to do is make some kind of sense out of the volleyball schedule, similar to tennis, similar to golf, where people want to stay tuned to see what's going on with the majors," Sun said in a telephone interview. "Other tour stops would fill out the entire season, culminating in the AVP championships, which is like the Super Bowl for beach volleyball."

Sun has not yet sought or received commitments from players, which will be a key factor in the tour's success. While the sport gets a quadrennial bump from the TV coverage during the Olympics, that can quickly disappear if none of the recognizable names make it to the local beach volleyball event.

"We've reached out to a few players. But I'm not going to ask them to sign a contract; I don't think that's fair," Sun said. "We'll show them who we are and hopefully they'll want to be a part. For the most part it's been pretty positive. They're excited about having a few more events with a healthy prize purse."

Doug Beal, the CEO of USA Volleyball, the national governing body, said the re-emergence of the AVP "bodes well for the growth of the sport throughout the country."

Jake Gibb, who will compete in the London Olympics, agreed.

"For us as pro players, this news is huge - both in the short- and long-term," said Gibb, who with Sean Rosenthal lost in the quarterfinals of the Beijing Games. "To have two major pro beach events appear out of nowhere on the schedule this season, as a follow-up to the Summer Games, it not only adds much-needed prize money to the mix, but also media exposure and sponsor opportunities."